Michigan Court of Appeals Agrees with City on FishPass Project

October 20, 2022

On October 20, 2022, the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the City of Traverse City’s decision to implement the Fish Pass project. At issue in this lawsuit was whether the City Charter required a vote prior to construction of the FishPass Project. 

According to the Michigan Court of Appeals, “…the Project will result in a net gain of parkland and more public use. The Property will remain a park under the Project.” Furthermore, “The trial court based its decision largely on the Project’s research elements, but occupying space on the Property for purposes of conducting research related to the passage of fish, which matter has been part of the operation of the Dam and a characteristic of the Property since the addition of the fish ladder in 1987, does not transform the park into something other than a park. Moreover, engaging in environmental research concerning the habitat of species found in the area has a natural connection to the Property’s purpose and use as a park.”

FishPass is the capstone of a ~20y restoration project on the Boardman (Ottaway) River, Traverse City, Michigan, re-connecting the river with Lake Michigan. FishPass will replace  the deteriorating Union Street Dam with a new, complete barrier to all fish that will have the ability to sort and selectively pass desirable fishes while blocking harmful invaders like sea lamprey. While fully automated selective passage is the long-term goal of the project, passage of any fish during the initial 10-yrs will be coordinated with fishery management agencies, limited in number, and restricted to fishes native to the upper Great Lakes.

City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht who argued the city’s case before the Michigan Court of Appeals, indicated “The city is pleased with the unanimous decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals and looks forward to implementing this important project."

City Manager Martin Colburn stated, “We will continue to work with our partners, the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission and Army Corp. of Engineers to successfully implement this capstone to the restoration of the Boardman (Ottaway) River that include, dam replacement, increased safety, and a barrier for invasive species.” Colburn continued, “We are pleased with the acknowledgement of the City Commission’s authority to approve FishPass.”

Michigan Court of Appeals Decision